Pay It Forward

I am a firm believer that random acts of kindness are the lubrication that greases the entrepreneurial and VC worlds.  People doing good by others builds up the positive karma bank account. There is so much uncertainty in the tech world, that you never know when you will have to call in a favor or ask for return kindness. So, like squirrels waiting for winter, many successful entrepreneurs will tell you that success hinged upon a few breaks going the right way and often, those breaks came because of previous good deeds and good will they had stored up. Too often, we get so wrapped up in our own issues and challenges that we fail to look around and think about others. Why should we when we barely have enough time, money, etc for ourselves?

This approach was institutionalized several years ago by Catherine Ryan Hyde with her "Pay It Forward" program that gained attention through the movie starring Helen Hunt & Kevin Spacey as well as Oprah’s "$1,000" challenge. Hyde’s foundation is the Pay It Forward Foundation. In short, the idea is that you commit a random act of kindness. It could be to a stranger or to someone you know. This could be assistance, money or whatever you have to give. The only condition is that they, in turn, help someone else ("pay forward" the kindness or aid). While I was aware of and a fan of the approach, I was not aware of the program’s genesis. As she said in a recent Motto interview:

"I had an experience, probably more than 25 years ago, where I was by myself in a bad neighborhood, driving late at night and I had car trouble (car caught on fire). I was stranded by myself when these two men–total strangers–came out of nowhere. They were running and running fast. One of them had a blanket under his arm, and I thought, "Oh my God!" It never occurred to me that they intended anything but harm. But they put out my car fire by hand with this blanket.

Then the fire department showed up. In the process of talking to the fire department, I turned around to thank the two guys and they were gone. I have no idea who they were or what their motivation was.

So I got back on the highway and noticed a really interesting difference: Now I am driving on the highway every day and have one eye on the side of the road looking for someone in trouble.

So the whole impetus behind the pay-it-forward idea is: What is it about receiving an act of kindness from a stranger that makes you want to give an act of kindness in return? When we have received it, we want to give it."

So, as you go through your daily routine, look for opportunities to pay it forward. It could be helping someone find a job, helping with a customer intro, giving advice to someone, helping monetarily or simply just being there for someone. Too often, we feel that our resources are limited and that using them on others means that much less for us. Ironically, there is a strange multiplier effect and you find that there was more resource there originally than you thought and additionally, the kindness seems to come back (though from a different direction). Food for thought…

One thought on “Pay It Forward

  1. Great post, which is a reminder for what needs to occur to build long standing relationships. In relationship building, you should always try to help others first. You want people to see you a giver not a taker. To add value to your network, you should be trying to find ways to help. Paying it Forward will provide numerous benefits for you down the line. Your random acts of kindness will not be for nothing.

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